Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Homemade Christmas Reveal #2: The Winter Sensory Box



Here is the long awaited, much anticipated Winter Sensory Box in all of it's glory.

Well... the fake snow lasted about 20 minutes before I kicked both girls out of the box and got out my mini dust buster and sucked up the fake glitter that was taking over the kitchen. I replaced all of the fake snow with uncooked white rice and it has been much better since. The snow was pretty but with the 23 month old it was traveling near and far. I tried to not be too Mommy Dearest as I threw away the snow and explained why rice was even cooler than fluff.

Monday, December 29, 2008

* So Much Cooler Than Pixie Hollow: DIY Homemade Fairy House

Home Made Christmas Reveal #1: Home Grown Pixie Hollow.
Eat your heart out Tinkerbell.
We've got the coolest fairy house on the block.
Built by yours truly and my darling husband as one of this year's coolest Christmas gifts.

This year my sweet hubby helped me with some of my crazy home made Christmas crafting and this was one of my favorite creations by far. We built a fairy house for our girls to play with. I've seen similar ones on-line and in catalogs but I did not have $300 lying around to drop on one and decided we could meet the challenge and make our own. My parents watched the girls for a Saturday afternoon so we could be busy little elves and get the thing built without an audience. It was quite a little engineering project but it turned out well and is very sturdy.



Materials: We ordered irregular tree "rounds" from Walnut Hollow
(3 circles cost me under $7.00!) to make the floors.

If you have a chain saw and fire wood you could do this for less but it was worth every penny in my book.

Then I ordered the smaller circles to build the stair cases from Discount School Supply (They're called Wood Craft Rounds -- bag of 50 pieces for $11).

The base was an unfinished pine table top from Lowes. The rest was found and recycled stuff from our garage. The columns were cut from a branch the girls and I found on a nature walk this fall and our re-cycled outdoor umbrella post (the top half of this same umbrella became a trellis for my morning glory vines last summer)

The furniture was made by my very patient, artsy, and sweet father with twigs, wood glue, and some unfinished wood boxes from the craft store. I also found a little set of fairy furniture at Five Below for $5 - (SCORE! A complete bargain!) Dad made the wishing well (lined with aqua colored fish gravel), both beds, the tables and chairs, a bench, a rabbit hutch, and a fire pit (with faux red cellophane fire). I sewed mini mattresses and will be making tiny silk flower quilts later. I got the fairy dolls (on sale plus a coupon) at the Disney Store in November.

We've been having a great time with our tiny fairy family
Our silk scarves have been great ponds, waterfalls, snow, and fields!
I'll post the Winter Box next.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is the Gingerbread House the Frog Princess Built


The artist working at her kitchen table studio....

The finished buildings proudly on display.

The awesome rainbow roof.
Her father is a homebuilder and mom is a mixed media artist so it really shouldn't surprise me that this is the kind of gingerbread house she comes up with. The Frog Princess (age 5 and half!) created these gingerbread buildings last week. The small out building ("the art studio" as she calls it) and the ice cream cone tree were made at school. The big house came from a pre-baked (read: so easy) Walmart kit. I love the rainbow (of course!) roof that she made and the lollipop trees and gumdrop side lights. We wanted to add a Sweedish Fish coy pond but there wasn't enough room. Our leftover halloween candy served us well!


Happy Holidays !

Wishing you all a very
Merry Christmas
Happy Chanukah
Happy Kwanza
and a healthy, joyous, crafty, and green New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

* Do You Have a Fairy In the House? Custom Spice Jar Labels To Make Mealtime Fun for Kids



The Frog Princess made this adorable label with self adhesive white office label paper to convert one of my half empty cinnamon spice bottles into a new and improved Fairy Dust bottle. It contains a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and has made breakfast time a bit more exciting in a "fancy nancy" way. I got this fabulous idea from Megan's Blog Plum Pudding. She made a whole set of these "Sprinkle Jars" with her kids to spice up their mealtimes and I think it's a fantastic idea. Go check out her post and see her kid's adorable artwork on their labels.

What a fun way to get your kids to try new foods. She has much healthier things like wheat germ, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pepper, nutmeg, etc. A harmless way to give them a little more control at meal time and anything that prevents a battle is something I'll add to my playbook any day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mini Muffin Tin Lunch


My kids are sick of soup and Mini Saurus won't eat Mac and Cheese (I know! What's up with that?) I needed to find an easy lunch time meal solution that made the girls happy and works for mama too.

Solution: Mini Muffin Pan lunches.

I've seen these on several other blog sites and I had to see what all of the fuss was about. Well ladies, I am converted. The girls loved eating their "poo-poo platters" as the Frog Princess calls them out of the mini muffin tins. They fit beautifully in my dishwasher for easy clean up.
I can fill the cups with bits of leftovers from the fridge to make a fairly balanced meal (and yes, organic cheese puffs are part of the dairy group!) The girls happily munch their way through leftover green beans, leftover corn, diced grapes/raisins, turkey pepperoni, white american cheese, and a little something sweet (like mini marshmallows, jelly beans, chocolate chips, etc.)

So simple but so fun. This would be fantastic for our family movie night when we all eat dinner in the family room and watch a dvd. We might manage to spill less for the ants.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bloggy Christmas Ornament Exchange


Three gorgeous ornaments we've received so far....

Quality Control:
Here are our scrapbook paper ornaments being inspected by Mini-Saurus
before we mailed them.

(We made mini versions to go on the girl's christmas trees.)

The Frog Princess and I participated in a wonderful Kid's Christmas Ornament exchange through Cami's Blog at Full Circle. Our theme was "Winter Wonderland" and we were to create home-made ornaments with our children. The Frog Princess is the glitter glue queen. She rocked adding ornaments and garland to our scrapbook paper trees.

120 families are participating this year (WOW!) and we each make 7 ornaments to send to 7 other bloggy families and will get 7 ornaments in return. How cool is that?! I'm super excited to see my new ornaments and to make new bloggy friends. Crafts, Christmas, Family, and Blogging, Four of my favorite things!

It has been so fun going to the mail box each day to see if we've gotten a new ornament. Three have arrived so far (see the photo above) and by the Frog Princess' reaction to each of them you would think that Santa himself arrived in each of those envelopes. Thank you ladies for such a fun new tradition!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

* Holiday Scented Glitter Play Dough




So I put the Frog Princess to work with me this week and we made our own home-made holiday scented glitter play dough in the kitchen. It was fun! We combined science, cooking, and arts and crafts into one big messy adventure. I'm planning to have some available to buy at my craft fair booth. Fun, organic stocking stuffers!

We made a batch of Peppermint Green (with glitter), Cinnamon Red, and Sparkly Vanilla White.Our batch of Little Gingerbread Boy Brown smelled good enough to eat with allspice, cinnamon and ginger. It was like making cookies with less post holiday saddle bag damage!

We plan to make future custom color and scent combinations as birthday gifts for the Frog Princess' little friends. I see visions of rainbow colored glitter dough in themes like Fairy Forrest Friends and Alien Army.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Felt Flower Barrettes: Everything's Coming Up Daisies



Here are my flower power girl power hair accessories I made for the craft show this weekend. I also have head bands and pins with these little felt flowers on them. I love the different color combinations. This was one of my favorite crafts to make because of the fun materials. I have a hard time explaining how happy a stack of felt (in rainbow order of course) and a big jar of buttons makes me. You'll see me at the bus stop sporting some of these with my girls. I plan to make more for various friends and their little girls as birthday gifts.

Wouldn't these make cute little stocking stuffers? I think the ponytail holders would be adorable napkin rings for your cloth napkins green mamas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In My Studio....Homemade Christmas Gifts - Ocean In A Box


Update: These little clothespin mermaids were so popular that Disney bought 
the rights to the craft from me to use in their Family Fun Magazine
and their Spoonful and Family Fun Princess Crafts website! Yay!

** If you want to make your own clothespin mermaid, check out my 

They are easy to make, directions and printable templates can be found in my 


The post below is really old and from my pre-watermarking days, 
please give proper credit to my ideas and images and do not steal! 


My Ocean In a Box Sensory Box


My homemade clothespin mermaids. 


Just got home from a Daisy scout cookie exchange and sing along. Now I'm catching up on my blogging instead of finishing a twenty million little projects waiting for me in my studio. So here is today's post...gifts you can make at home for your kids.

This weekend,  I'm setting up a little table, my own booth, per se at a local craft show with my favorite fellow artist, my mom. We're planning to hawk our wares and see if we can raise a little Christmas cash. That is if we can off-set the cost of our booth rental, our materials, and the time we've spent making our stuff. Mom will be selling her gorgeous hand-painted cards and ornaments. I will be taking the kiddy route and selling gifts for the under 4 feet tall crowd and their keepers. If nothing sells I figure I've got my first batch for my Etsy shop or I can beg all of you to take mercy on me and relieve me of a years worth of birthday party gifts for little girls ages 4-6. I'm going to post some of my creations this week so you can see how I've been spending Mini-Saurus' nap time and my evening hours for the past few weeks.

First up...my little mermaid boxes. These are small versions of my Ocean in a Box that I will be selling with home-made sea weed and mermaids. We'll see if anyone likes them or not. My studio table was a very happy place today with 20 mini mermaids covering it.

Update -- these little clothespin mermaids were so cute and popular Family Fun Magazine actually bought the rights to use them in their own books and magazines! Woot! : )

Coming up next....What's that sound? Is there a jungle near by?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fun Gifts You Can Make for Your Kids - Garden In A Box


In continuation with our box themes we now have a "Garden Box" sensory box.
This is like the Ocean Box
Winter Wonderland Box (photos and post coming this month) 

This could be a "Fairy Garden", a "Bug Habitat" or even a "Jungle"

 I used shredded green paper from Easter time 
(you could also just run some green scraps through a document shredder) 
silk flowers, a small watering can (no water of course!) 
assorted plastic bugs and frogs, a small pail and some mini gardening tools.

The girls have been having a blast "planting" and "picking" flowers.

The polly pockets and fairies have been traipsing around in the wilderness and have been on the lookout for camouflaged giant lizards!

Happy Spring! 

Warmly,
MaryLea

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So Thankful...


I'm so thankful for so many wonderful things in my life this Thanksgiving.
Let us remember each year the things we are thankful for, both small and great.
Let us reflect on traditions, family, and time spent together.

Here's a list with a few of the things I'm most thankful for this year:
  • My husband and daughters.
  • Our loving families.
  • Our continued good health. Husband still cancer free after 13 years!
  • Our cozy home.
  • Friends, new and old.
  • New babies growing in the arms and bellies of some of my closest friends.
  • Our kitties.
  • Safety.
  • Comfort. - Jeans that fit my post two babies body.
  • Time to work on my art.
  • Happy children
  • A good fit at school-- Frog Princess loves her teachers and her classmates.
  • Good books and magazines to read.
  • Tivo.
  • Family traditions.
  • A new furnace and up-graded attic insulation.
  • Chocolate.
  • Double coupons.
  • Gift cards for guilt free shopping escapes.
  • A new (good) hairdresser that charges less than $20 to cut my hair.
If the Frog Princess were writing this list she would include:
-Frogs
-Froggy, Lady, and Purple Lovey
-Robots
-Wheel Chairs
-Aurora and Malificent
-Purple
-Mom
-Arthur, Martha Speaks, and Word Girl

Mini-Saurus' list would include:
-The Frog Princess
-Lovey
-Binkies
-Froggy, and Pink Ro-Ro (her blanket)
-Aurora
-Cats
-The Wiggles, Sesame Street, and Bob the Builder


I'm looking forward to our traditional dinner with my parents at my childhood home. My dad cooks the best meal and mom makes the house beautiful. Signing the thanksgiving table cloth and tracing the girl's hand prints again this year. Leftover turkey sandwiches, dad's stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and the olive and pickles plate and celery sitcks stuffed with pimento cheese.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

* Is There A Doctor In Your House? Imaginative Doctor Role Play For Kids




My 5 and half year old, (Dr.) Frog Princess loves to play doctor. Anybody who enters our home is a potential patient. We have daily surgical dramas taking place in the kitchen, on the coffee table, the playroom floor, and of course in her room. She is not your average 5 year old, she is a mini walking Merck manual and enjoys throwing around words like "Stat", "Gall bladder" (her favorite body part) and "Decapitate"

For example: "Mommy I need some oatmeal for breakfast - STAT!" or... "Mom... I pooped, can you come wipe me? - STAT!"... "Mom, that angel (at Home Goods this weekend) is decapitated!" And yes, several old ladies, looked up from their scouring of Christmas paraphernalia, turned around and stared at both of us when she let that one drop.

When she turned 5 last March we took her to Toys R' Us to get her special birthday balloon, P.A. announcement, and discounted gift coupon. Out of all of the dolls, dress-up clothing, trains, art supplies, board games, etc. she picked out the Discovery Channel dissect a frog kit (for ages 8 and up) with life like gooey organs and dissecting tools. It's her favorite. We got a few raised eye brows for that one too.

Dr. Frog Princess loves playing doctor so much she's getting a wheel chair for one of her dolls this Christmas. One of the highlights of her year so far was when our friend, Dr. Don, visited for a Sunday brunch before having to catch a plane back to his day job as an ER doctor in the Southern United States. During his brief visit they dissected the frog princess' fake frog, inspected many bark and leaf specimens under her microscope, and performed some emergency procedures on a few dolls, stuffed animals, and each other. He promised her he'd try to hook her up with some empty saline IV bags (without the needles of course) and some more of her favorite purple surgical gloves. She has elaborate plans for her birthday party this year. We'll be converting the bottom level of the house into a hospital but more on that in a later post. Her birthday's not until March.

If you have a mini doctor in the house like I do, I highly recommend supplementing their plastic equipment arsenal with a few more props like ACE bandages, a real working stethoscope, an ear scope, popsicle sticks, white pom-pons to serve as cotton balls (they hold up better to multiple procedures), medicine "syringes" like the kind they give you with Amoxicillin from the drug store, a mask, surgical gloves, etc. White masking tape and old strips of fabric make great casts and bandages. If you're feeling really generous you can always get a set of mini scrubs or a lab coat. You never know, they just might grow up to take care of you someday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

* Don't Toss That Halloween Candy - Creative Ideas To Recycle Halloween Candy


If your basket of halloween haul is placed safely out of reach of small hands like mine, it may still look like this. Unfortunately every night after my kids are tucked safely in their beds it starts softly singing it's siren song to my thighs. I'm resisting, I really am, because I'm saving it for a good cause. I'm planning to make a kick-tush ginger bread house this year with the girls and we're using our stash to bling it up. The sugar plum fairy herself is going to want to move in. No more generic little gum drops and peppermints (don't worry they'll be on there too) we'll have Cowtail boulders, and lollipop trees, and taffy doormats and Milk Dud poop on the front lawn - hey our neighborhood has a lot of dogs -- we're going for authentic here. I can see the koi pond with Swedish Fish now. We may even have Skittles painting their rainbow of fruit flavors across the roof line...if I don't eat them all first.

You can approach the whole gingerbread house a couple of different ways. You can buy a pre-baked kit like I did this year (I've seen them at Michael's, BJs, Walmart, Target,etc.) or you can build your own at home with a cardboard base (think mini milk, cream, or Egg Beaters carton) with graham crackers glued on. I learned last year that hot glue from a glue gun works better for this than Elmer's school glue (it makes the crackers get soggy and fall apart) Or you can even go all Martha and bake one from scratch.

More fun stuff to do with your candy includes:
- Add it to your Christmas cookies and baked goods.
- Let the Kids use it to decorate cupcakes or cookies as a craft for Thanksgiving.
- Do some "Smarty Math" as the Frog Princess and I call it with counting, adding, subtracting, and sorting.
- Any more fun ideas ladies?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Make Your Own Zero-Calorie Cookie Plate


I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet but if you want to make your own goodies this Christmas season now is the time. This cookie plate won't add an inch to your thighs this Christmas. But the cookies you put on it might. Especially if you leave Santa Oreos like we do...I think there is a rule that you have to eat the whole row in one sitting (like Thin Mints) We built our own plate from scratch using clay at our local paint your own pottery-type store when she was 4 and half years old. But, you could just as easily glaze a plain (pre-made) plate with your little one. Or...find one of those paint a plate at home craft kits at your local craft store. You could even get super-dooper crafty and make your own with Sculpey clay and cook it in your home oven.

The Frog Princess and I made this plate using clay coils to form a basic plate shape. Then, we rolled out flat slabs of clay (like a pancake) and cut out cookie shapes with real cookie cutters and attached them around the perimeter like a wreath. After a bisque firing in the kiln we came back to the store and painted it with glaze followed by one more trip through the kiln and voila! Fabulous homemade cookie plate for Santa's cookies every Christmas eve (and a display for mommy's China hutch the rest of the year)

The following year, she painted a Santa mug to go with it. Alas, I love it so much I'm afraid to put it in our regular coffee mug rotation (I'm afraid it will get broken) so instead it holds candy canes in my hutch.

Ho-ho-ho...happy early crafting!


** Don't forget to enter my first bloggy giveaway. I'll be drawing names of my three winners next friday!! ***

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Sew Tea Towel Kitchen Curtains





My grandmother embroidered these beautiful tea towels for me when I married my sweet husband 10 years ago. Each one has a little pot of herbs. They match my compost crock perfectly. I've kept them in a drawer in my studio hoping to put them to some great artsy use because I didn't want them to get stained in my kitchen. I thought about using them in a quilt (I'm still planning to do that with some of my other embroidered tea towels) but then I saw this really cute curtain idea in Better Homes and Gardens a few months ago and had my "a-ha!" moment. They provide some much needed privacy from the neighbors now that our leaves are down for the winter.

All I did was hang a cafe rod across the kitchen window and use curtain rings with clips to fold over and clip up my cute little towels. I love the fact that they are no-sew and I can change them for the holidays.

Now, I think about my grammy while I'm doing dishes at the sink and remember her pot roast and zucchini bread, picking vegetables in her garden, watching her sew adorable little clothes for my Barbies and baby dolls, looking through family photo albums together, and best of all her warm hugs. It's such a simple reminder and fills my heart with joy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

One Neighbor's Trash Is My Daughter's Treasure

Neighbor's Trash Desk Before...
The Frog Princess' New Big Girl Desk After....
My neighbor put this old desk out at the curb for trash pick up last week. My 5 year old daughter, the Frog Princess, and I were out for a walk and spotted it. She asked me if we could bring it home to use as a desk in her room and I laughed and immediately said, "no". Then I realized that with a little bit of paint and it just might work.

So, we decided to use our collective "girl power." The Frog Princess pushed her little sister (19 month old, Mini-Saurus) in the stroller while I strapped the desk onto our dolley (in the rain!) and wheeled it home into our garage. My hubby was still at work and was "surprised" to see such a lovely treasure waiting in our garage when he got home. Several coats of white and purple spray paint later, during Mini-Saurus' naps while the Frog Princess was at Kindergarten, we have her new big girl desk. Yes... I know it's not the "Green-est" way to paint but at least I'm not going out and buying a new piece of furniture. She is over the moon in love with it. Maybe I'll just dumpster dive for the rest of her Christmas gifts this year.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homemade Gifts Your Kids Will Like: Pretend Pizza


I love felt. It's so very Martha and it's easy to work with. Felt is inexpensive, it comes in enough colors to make a lot of cute stuff with and in my opinion, is a crafter's dream. I made this fun little pizza for my girls by recycling a small pizza box and lining it with some felt (it was a very clean pizza box -- if you needed one, I bet you could ask your local pizza place for a box) I made the pizza crust with stiff brown felt and the sauce and toppings are just cut out of scraps of soft felt (red triangle sauce, white onions and mushrooms, green peppers, yellow cheese and pineapple, black olives. The fabulous part is that the felt sticks to itself (just like a felt board) so it can be made and disassembled over and over again. The whole pie is cut into quarters and the girls love to make and deliver pizzas to each other in the playroom. Now isn't this more fun than a plastic fake pizza?

This would be such an easy craft to make as a fun and inexpensive gift for your own kids (don't forget cousins, nieces, nephews, box project recipients, etc) this upcoming holiday season. This would also be super cute to make and give as a birthday gift for that special small someone in your life, if your kids are old enough they can help you make it

I bet you can't resist playing with it yourself!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Getting A Head Start On the Holidays: Painted Pottery Keepsakes with Hand Prints and Foot Prints

What is a former art teacher to do? Since I don't have access to my own kiln anymore, I try to get my girls into a Paint Your Own Pottery-type store a couple of times a year to make keepsakes for myself and to give as gifts to their adoring grandparents.

One of my favorite things to make are platters and dessert plates with hand or foot prints. You paint the background while they sit next to you painting a small doo-dad, ornament, or mug (great teacher or grandparent gift). Then, you take off their shoes and socks and paint some underglaze on their foot. To make this super cute reindeer platter with my Frog Princess in 2006, I painted her foot to make the deer's head and her hands to make the antlers.

Last year, I painted dessert plates black and purple. Then I painted each girl's foot with white underglaze to make Halloween ghost plates (upside down foot prints). They were so cute the owner of the shop wanted to keep them for examples. If you still want to do Halloween plates this year you could fudge a little bit and take your kids to the shop now and make one before they have another growth spurt. Use them next year or just put them on display!

I have dreams this year of taking both girls to make a Thanksgiving turkey platter layering their hand prints in different colors to make the tail feathers and using Mini-Saurus' little foot to make the body. This is a fun way to make memories with your kids and you have a wonderful keepsake when you're finished. Now is the time to make your Christmas plates, mugs, and platters so they will be ready to give (or just show off!) in December.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Haunted Village In a Box - Halloween Diorama


My sweet aunt in Colorado sent the girls and me a wonderful surprise care package earlier this week filled with fun Halloween craft supplies. I can't explain what a perfect gift this is for our family. The Frog Princess and I love to create and craft in my art studio and Mini-Saurus is following right behind us with complete enthusiasm for all things crafty and messy!

We built these mini haunted houses after school today and the Frog Princess immediately decided we needed to build a diorama ("like your Peeps, Mom!") So we went to work. Rome wasn't built in a day, but our little haunted village only took an hour and it sure is cute. The Frog Princess drew the trees and street light, added her assorted spooky foam stickers, and is so proud of her little creation. She went to bed tonight brainstorming how to make mini trick-or-treaters to populate our tiny town. I see a pattern in our future of holiday-themed dioramas.

Happy Haunting!

Halloween Costume Greatest Hits Parade










So today, instead of writing a "real"post, I'm sharing photos of my little darlings in their past (and present) Halloween ensembles. The Frog Princess has been a Halloween Kitty, a Sheep (home-made by me), a Robot (home-made), a Washing Machine (home-made), a purple Care Bear (store bought - I was too pregnant to sew), Princess Fiona from Shrek 2 (store bought - I had a baby to chase), and this year -- Malificent from Sleeping Beauty (combo of home-made and store bought elements). Mini-Saurus debuted last year as Snow White and will be a Care Bear (or a sheep depending on the temperature) Friday night it sure is nice to recycle those costumes!

Looking forward to Trick-or-Treating with them both tomorrow.

Wishing you all Happy Haunting with your own little ones!

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